What is education for?

I am beginning to read about education theories, education policy and chalk-face teaching stories.

Yes, I am preparing myself to train as a teacher. Hopefully I will be starting a course in September 2015, training to teach 11-18 year old children, specialising in Computer Science.

I am picking up lots of swipes about educational “fads”: e.g. “learning styles”, or “growth mindsets”.

And I was reminded of something David Hume nearly said: most arguments are about the definitions of the concepts used.* Once the concepts, the words, and their underlying ambiguities have been exposed, the debate can then agree on what they mean and don’t mean and the proceed to talk about what the real issue is.

I was reminded of that when I read this in the comments section of a blog post – The Growth Mindset.

“I believe the purpose of the education system should be to prepare all children for a life as independent adults, and to offer academic or vocational opportunities which suit their interests and abilities.”


So before getting involved in an argument about whether this research demonstrates this or that, we should always have in front of us an agreed principle of what education is for. And no doubt we will have a lot of definitions.

And this is where I come up short. I mostly agree with the statement above, but worry that in practice education is about work: getting qualifications that will get jobs, or at least the first step on the rung of the career ladder. After that we all know it’s about hard knocks.

And this is where I get flumoxed. There is yet a bigger issue, an assumption, behind the definition above. What traits, what qualifications, what skills, what experience leads to success and what is success anyway?

I ought to lie down.

My way of coping with this is to come back to this question about what is education for. For in that definition are the crooked timbers I can use as cudgels against the sea of fads.

I hope.


….
* What Hume said was “the chief obstacle … to our improvement in the moral or metaphysical sciences is the obscurity of the ideas, and ambiguity of the terms.” (EHU 7.1.2/61)

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